When warm weather arrives, many people “flip” turnout schedules---keeping horses inside during the hot, buggy daylight hours and turning them out at night when it’s cooler. However, one potential downside of having horses out at night is that any injuries or other problems that occur most likely won’t be discovered until morning---many hours later. That’s why it’s a good idea to take a few precautions to help the transition to night turnouts go smoothly:
• Consider herd dynamics. If every horse in your herd has been turned out at night before and they are all friends, they will probably adapt easily to the new schedule. If, however, you have a new horse, you’ll want to be sure that he’s settled into the herd, with a buddy or two, before his first night out. You want any squabbles to reestablish the herd hierarchy to happen during daylight hours, when you can monitor the situation.
• Ensure that your fences are visible. Horses have excellent night vision, much better than yours. Still, you don’t want your fences to blend too much into their backgrounds. You don’t need to replace or repaint darker fences in shadowy areas, however. The solution can be as simple as applying reflective tape or tying a bit of surveyor’s tape every few feet.
• Establish a buffer from automobiles. If your pasture borders on a road, traffic accidents that damage the fence or injure horses are a possibility. Consider using a different paddock for overnight turnout, or invest in a double fence line around the farm’s perimeter.
• Watch your horse’s weight. When switching to nighttime turnout, horses may end up on pasture for many more hours each day. This extra grazing time can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of laminitis. If your horse has a history of either, consider using a grazing muzzle or turning him out in a dry lot. Keep tabs on all of your horses to catch any weight gain early.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #452, May 2015.